The gap between people with effective access to digital and information technology, and those with very limited or no access at all.
The National Hispanic Media Coalition, Color of Change, NAACP and the Benton Foundation are among the organizations concerned about proposed changes to the Lifeline program, which is on the docket for the Federal Communications Commission’s upcoming open meeting. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai -- who has long called for reforms to deter waste, fraud and abuse in Lifeline -- is seeking a vote at the agency’s Nov. 16 meeting on a major overhaul of the program, which subsidizes phone and broadband service for the poor.
The federal government is pouring billions of dollars into expanding broadband internet access, namely through the $65 billion included in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. But it’s at the state level where the financial rubber meets the fiber-optic road. History suggests some states are ahead of the game while others will have to play catch-up.
New Federal Legislation Eases Access to Financing for Broadband Projects with Qualified Private Activity Bonds
Congress has passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021, which President Biden signed on November 15, 2021. The Act includes approximately $65 billion in funding opportunities for the deployment of broadband services in rural areas. In addition to the creation of a broadband grant program, the new legislation modifies Section 142(a) of the Internal Revenue Code to add broadband as an allowable use for qualified private activity bonds.
Later in December 2021, Maine's new broadband agency will submit its plan to the federal government to use $128 million to expand and improve high-speed internet access across the state. The Maine Connectivity Authority is just six months old, but the quasi-governmental agency is already sitting on $21 million in funding from the American Rescue Plan that Democrats in Congress passed earlier this year, and it will soon submit its proposal to the US Treasury Department to spend $128 million more.
Nik Coates, the town administrator for Bristol (NH), is working on a project that would bring New Hampshire closer to the goal of universal coverage. Coates is also part of the Grafton County Broadband Committee, which applied for $26.2 million in federal funds that would go toward building out broadband in that county. But the grant process – through the National Transportation Infrastructure Agency – is facing a challenge from incumbent providers who say they are already providing service in the region.
Addressing The Digital Divide In Education: Technology And Internet Access For Students In Underserved Communities
Although there are many technological solutions that can positively impact the educational digital divide, the following three are particularly noteworthy.
We need to shift the narrative around digital equity. Top of mind for many participants were the very ways we talk about and define digital equity—and how it shapes and sustains the larger systemic challenges we see play out in school systems. Inequitable funding formulas, digital redlining, and biased, eurocentric curriculum, for example, all contribute incrementally to inequitable educational experiences.
Today, broadband is a necessary tool to innovate farming practices, allowing for more targeted and efficient resource use. Farmers need connectivity in the farmhouse and farm office, in the field, and in the community to enable sustainable, data-driven agriculture and meet the world’s rising demand for food. This week we learned of the recommendations of a blue-ribbon panel created by Congress to address the connectivity needs of agriculture.
Public Knowledge, joined by the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society, filed an amici curiae brief in the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which is reviewing a New York law to make broadband internet more affordable.